Sermon 7: The Consecration of the Mediator
"What Christ was, He was for us. What He did, He did for us. All that He suffered, He suffered for us" (John Flavel).
by John Flavel on July 16, 2020
“And for their sakes I sanctify myself” (John 17:19).
In this verse, we read that Christ sanctifies Himself. The word “sanctify” is not used here in the sense of cleansing (or, purifying) that which is unclean. Rather, it signifies: (1) Christ’s separation (or, setting apart) of Himself to be a sacrifice; and (2) Christ’s consecration (or, dedication) of Himself to this holy use and service. He voluntarily offers Himself as a holy and unblemished sacrifice to the Father for our redemption.
The purpose of His sanctifying Himself was that we might be sanctified. Here we see that Christ’s death wholly respects us. Christ is so in love with holiness that, at the price of His blood, He will buy it for us.
Doctrine: Christ completely dedicated Himself to the work of a Mediator for the sake of the elect.
This doctrine is like a glass in which the eye of faith may see Christ preparing Himself to be offered up to God for us. I will explain two points.
The Implications of Christ’s Consecration
First, it implies the personal union of the two natures in Christ. This was the sacrifice. “Through the eternal Spirit [he] offered himself without spot to God” (Heb. 9:14). By His incarnation, our nature has become “himself.” No greater honor can be done to our nature, and no greater ground of comfort can be proposed to us.
Second, it implies the greatness and dreadfulness of the breach that sin had made between God and us. Nothing less than Christ’s sacrifice of Himself could make atonement (Heb. 10:5). Even if our tears for sin were as numerous as the drops of rain that have fallen since the creation of the world, our repentance could not atone for sin.
Third, it implies Christ’s voluntary undertaking of the work of redemption. He did not die out of compulsion, but out of choice. Thus, He is said to offer up Himself to God (Jn. 10:18; Heb. 10:14). Though it is often said His Father sent Him and gave Him, Christ’s heart was fully set on the work. He was under no constraint but that of His own love. He died out of choice, and He was a freewill offering.
Fourth, it implies Christ’s pure and perfect holiness. He had no spot or blemish in Him (Heb. 7:26; 1 Pet. 1:19). All other people bear a double spot: the spot of original sin and the spots of actual sins. But Christ had neither of these. He did not have the spot of original sin, because He came in a peculiar way into the world, and so escaped it. Nor did He have the spots of actual sins because His life was spotless and pure (Isa. 53:9). Though tempted externally to sin, He was never defiled in heart or practice. He came as near as He could for our sakes, yet still without sin (Heb. 4:15). To sanctify Himself as a sacrifice, He had to be as the law requires: pure and spotless.
Fifth, it implies the strength of Christ’s love and the largeness of His heart toward poor sinners. He set Himself apart wholly and entirely for us, so that all everything He did and suffered was in respect to us. He did not live a moment, perform an act, or speak a word, except to promote the great design of our salvation. “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given” (Isa. 9:6). He would never have become the Son of man, except to make us the sons and daughters of God. God would not have come down in the likeness of sinful flesh, except to raise up sinful man unto the likeness of God. All His miracles were for us, to confirm our faith (Jn. 11:42). When He lived on earth, He lived for us. When He died, He died for us (Gal. 3:13). When He was hanged on the cursed tree, He was hanged for us. When He was buried, He was buried for us. When He rose again, He rose for us—“for our justification” (Rom. 4:25). When He ascended into glory, He ascended for us—to prepare a place for us (Jn. 14:2). Now, He is there for us—to “make intercession” for us (Heb. 7:25). When He returns again to judge the world, He will come for us—to be “glorified” in us (2 Thess. 1:10). He will come to gather us to Himself, that where He is, there we may be in soul and body forever. Thus, He did wholly bestow Himself (His time, life, death, etc.) upon us, living and dying for no other end but to accomplish this great work of salvation for us.
Sixth, it implies the substitutionary nature of Christ’s death. When Aaron consecrated the sacrifice, it was set apart for the people (Lev. 16:21). Similarly, Christ stood in our room, to bear our burden (Isa. 53:6–7). As Aaron laid the iniquities of the people upon the goat, so our iniquities were laid on Christ—our pride, unbelief, hardness of heart, vain thoughts, and earthly-mindedness. His death was in our place as well as for our good.
Seventh, it implies the extraordinariness of Christ’s person. It reveals Him to be priest, altar, and sacrifice—all in one. His name might well be called “Wonderful.” He sanctifies Himself according to both natures. He sanctifies Himself according to His human nature, which was the sacrifice upon the altar of His divine nature, for it is the altar that sanctifies the gift. As the three offices never met in one person before, so these three things never met in one priest before. The priests indeed consecrated the bodies of beasts for sacrifices, but they never offered up their own souls and bodies as a whole burnt offering as Christ did.
The Beneficiaries of Christ’s Consecration
“Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us” (1 Cor. 5:7). “Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us” (Eph. 5:2). This will be explained by way of three considerations.
First, Christ was not offered to God for His own sins. The priests had to offer sacrifices for themselves as well as for the people. But Christ did not need to offer a sacrifice for Himself (Heb. 7:27). He was most holy (Isa. 53:9). Since He was most holy, His death must either be an act of injustice or an act of justice in relation to others. He could never have suffered and died by the Father’s hand, if He had not been a sinner by imputation. All our sins were laid on Him, not intrinsically, but by imputation (2 Cor. 5:21). It is evident, therefore, that Christ’s sacrifice is a respective (or, relative) thing.
Second, the Scriptures frequently call Christ’s death a price (1 Cor. 6:20) and a ransom (Matt. 20:28). It relates, therefore, to those who are in bondage and captivity. But Christ was never in captivity; He was always in His Father’s bosom. We were in cruel bondage under the tyranny of sin and Satan, and we alone have the benefit of this ransom.
Third, Christ’s death must relate to believers or else He must have died in vain. Either His blood must be shed with respect to believers or (which is most absurd) shed as water upon the ground. It was for our sakes (as the verse says) that He sanctified Himself. And now, we may say, “Lord, the condemnation was Yours, that the justification might be mine; the agony Yours, that the victory might be mine; the pain Yours, and the ease mine; the stripes Yours, and the healing balm mine; the vinegar and gall were Yours, that the honey and sweet might be mine; the curse was Yours, that the blessing might be mine; the crown of thorns was Yours, that the crown of glory might be mine; the death was Yours, that the life purchased by it might be mine. You paid the price that I might enjoy the inheritance.”
It is reasonable for believers to set themselves apart for Christ. What He was, He was for us. What He did, He did for us. All that He suffered, He suffered for us. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Rom. 12:1). As our good was Christ’s end, so His glory must be our end (Rom. 14:8; Phil. 1:21). This is what it means to be a Christian. A Christian is someone who is wholly dedicated to the Lord. What greater evidence can there be that Christ set Himself apart for us than our setting ourselves apart for Him?
Christ set Himself apart for us. Will we set ourselves apart for Him alone? We will never do so, until we can say: “Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee” (Ps. 73:25). He left the best and highest enjoyments (even those in His Father’s bosom) to set Himself apart to die and suffer for us. Are we ready to leave the best and sweetest enjoyments in this world to serve Him (Matt. 10:37)? He was so wholly given up to our service that He did not refuse the worst and hardest part of it—even bleeding, groaning, and dying. His love for us sweetened all this to Him. Do we account “the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt” (Heb. 11:26)?
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